(RNN) – The controversial documents known as the "perversion files" by the Boy Scouts of America were released Thursday for public inspection by a Portland attorney. The files have been uploaded to the Oregon law firms website.
The online files will allow for a search by city, state, troop number or name of suspected abuser.
The files contain reports of suspected sexual abuse by scout leaders from 1965 to 1985 across the country.
The documents contain more than 20,000 pages and identify more than 1,200 leaders and volunteers banned from the Boy Scouts for suspected abuse.
Many states have no statutes of limitations for crimes committed against children when they were younger than 16, so the release of the files could very well lead to a wave of criminal and civil cases, according to the Associated Press.
The Boy Scouts were ordered to hand over the files during a 2010 trial that ended with an $18.5 million damage award for the victim of abuse by a scout leader.
The organization appealed that ruling all the way to the Oregon Supreme Court, where it lost.
According to CNN, for decades, the Boy Scouts kept the files' contents secret, arguing confidentiality was needed to protect victims' privacy and encourage the reporting of suspected abuse.
But in many cases, the organization failed to report abuse to proper law enforcement.
"We're talking about hundreds, if not thousands of unidentified men who should be registered sex offenders who are roaming free in society, free to volunteer with other youth organizations, to work at schools and that sort of thing," lawyer of an abused scout, Tim Hale, told CNN.
The Boy Scouts of America have apologized and said new reports of abuse are no longer hidden by the organization but handed over to police.
"There have been instances where people misused their positions in Scouting to abuse children, and in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong. Where those involved in Scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families," Wayne Perry, BSA President said in a news release.
The Boy Scouts also released a video statement apologizing for the sexual abuse, and detailing recent policy changes.
"These policies include insuring at least two adults are present at all activities, preventing one-on-one contact between an adult and a youth member, requiring every scouting activity be opened to observation by parents, and mandating that suspicions of abuse be reported to the proper local authorities and to scouting leadership," Bob Mazucca, Former BSA Chief Scout Executive said.
The documents will not show the names of victims or of witnesses, but will include the names of some of the suspected abusers.
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